People—tourists, historians, archeologists—from all over come to Xi’an to see one thing: the Terracotta Army. Every group is assigned to one in-house guide who takes time to detail the making of the sculptures, step by step. The artisans use a mold or cast to form the general shape of the head, body, arms, and legs. Shaping the head, along with the nose, eyes, and ears prove to be the most challenging.
As you know, in the actual site, each of the Terracotta warrior’s face and facial expressions is distinct and unique; there are no two of the same. Two things I found interesting: one, the head of each sculpture is made separate from the body, therefore it’s detachable; and two, the body is, in fact, hollow!
At the factory, you’ll get to see actual artisans working on different pieces of art. And despite the variety, one thing was clear: the intricacy and detailing that went into each piece of work was incredible!
2. HUAQING HOT SPRINGS (华清池)
Most famously known for the love story between Emperor Xuanzong (685-762) and his concubine Yang Guifei in the Tang Dynasty (618-907), this palace of a hot springs is a magnificent landscape. You could choose to sightsee and study the relics and paintings, or you could take a dip in the pool of water originating from four springs with a temperature of 43C (109F). It is said that the water contains minerals that are therapeutic to the skin. Plan to spend about 1 to 1.5 hours here.
HUAQING HOT SPRINGS
38 Huaqing Rd
High Season (Mar. 1 – Nov. 30): 7 AM – 6 PM
Low Season (Dec. 1 – end of Feb.): 7:30 AM – 6:30 PM
CNY 80 (Dec. 1 – the end of Feb.)
CNY 110 (Mar. 1 – Nov. 30)
- Take Tourism Bus No. 5 (306) on the special route from Railway Station to the Terracotta Warriors via Huaqingchi Station, at the East Square of Xian Railway Station and get off at Huaqingchi Stop. Bus fare: CNY 6 | Estimated Travel Time: 45 mins.
- Take Bus 307 from the south gate of Tang Paradise to Huaqingchi Station. Bus fare: CNY 7.
- Take the free shuttle bus at Xian North Railway Station (estimated travel time: 1 hour).
3. EMPEROR QINSHIHUANG’S MAUSOLEUM SITE MUSEUM
This museum showcasing the Terracotta Army is a must-visit. We started with watching a short film on how the sculptures were first discovered just recently in 1975 by 3 local villagers, followed by a tour around all the warriors’ sites. A riveting fact we learned was that when the sculptures were first excavated, they were in color. However, within minutes, the colors had disappeared. Thankfully, there are photographs to prove. Plan to spend about at least 2 – 3 hours here.
EMPEROR QINSHIHUANG’S MAUSOLEUM SITE MUSEUM
Lintong District of Xi’an, Shaanxi Province
8:30 AM – 5 PM (Mar. 16 – Nov. 15)
8:30 AM – 4:30 PM (Nov. 16 – Mar. 15)
CNY150 (March 1 – end of November)
CNY120 (December 1 – end of February)
- Tourism bus no. 5 (306) from east square of Xian Railway Station gets off at Bing Ma Yong (Qin Terracotta Warriors and Horses) stop. Fare: CNY7 | Estimated Travel Time: 1 hour.
- Bus 307 from the south gate of Tang Paradise to Bing Ma Yong. Fare: CNY 8.
4. EAT ROADSIDE LOCAL CRÊPE | 煎饼
The softness of the skin, the crunch of the fried fritters, the savoriness of the egg – I melted inside. I made a mess around my mouth but I didn’t care. Tempted? You’ll find crêpe carts like this one all over the city in the mornings. And guess what? One crêpe only cost CNY 3.5 (USD 0.57 or Rp. 7.000)! Need I say I recommend it? I’d say it’s a must-eat!
5. GIANT WILD GOOSE PAGODA | 大雁塔
If you’re wondering whether the Pagoda is leaning, like the Tower of Pisa, it is. Constructed in 652 during the reign of Emperor Gaozong of the Tang Dynasty (618-907), the Pagoda, along with the surrounding the Buddhist Daci’en Temple, served to collect and store Buddhist materials that were brought back from India by the hierarch Xuanzang.
GIANT WILD GOOSE PAGODA
China, Xi’an, Yanta, 雁塔西路
Mon – Sun: 8 AM – 5 PM
6. THE XI’AN GREAT MOSQUE | 西安大清真寺
I’ll be honest. When I think of Islam, I don’t imagine China or Chinese. But there are 50,000 Muslims in Xi’an, many of whom work at the Muslim Quarter where most Muslims reside. It was both strange and fascinating to be in a mosque, in China. I mean, we see mosques everywhere in Indonesia, but being in one in China, it was unreal. The funny thing is when Muslim locals discover we come from Indonesia, they were awfully cordial, inviting us to come inside their shops and houses.
THE XI’AN GREAT MOSQUE
Near the Drum Tower on 30 Huajue Lane, Xi’an
We were so overwhelmed by the potpourri of flavors, aromas, tastes, and textures – anything from lamb skewers, spicy fried tofu, and meat buns, to fried nuts, sweet cakes, and freshly squeezed pomegranate juice (this is seriously everywhere!). With this panorama for our eyes to feast on, we had to strategize. Although when it comes to food, sharing isn’t my thing, I decided to be nice today for the sake of being able to sample a whole variety (and for good karma, I guess).
8. CITY WALL BY NIGHT
9. CITY WALL BY DAY
We caught a glimpse of the city wall the night before. This morning, we stood on it. And after several snapshots here and there, we went inside the building and were enlightened on the topic of feng shui and the unique significance of different animals and their colors. It was a short lesson, but an interesting one.
10. SHU YUAN MEN CULTURAL STREET
This particular destination was one of my favorite of all. A center for art and culture, it was alive in a subtle way. Unlike most markets like it, this one was serene and charming in the most understated way. As you’ll see, many shops sell calligraphy paintings, papers, and brushes. There was even an old man squatted down on the street writing. If we didn’t have to catch a flight that day, I would surely have stayed longer here.
So, there you have it – our top 10 things to enjoy in Xi’an! Where are your favorite spots?